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The Worst Thing About Cruising

WarmA few months ago, there was a thread on a Facebook women’s sailing group that was something along the lines of “what do you dislike most about cruising?” Common complaints were rolly anchorages, the necessity of doing laundry by hand, the lack of hairdryers and bathtubs in which to properly shave one’s salty legs. Here I was, after eight months or so of fighting honking traffic, liveaboard regulations, the high price of New Zealand cheese, school donations, car WoFing, $8/gallon petrol, $7 lattes, “free” healthcare that doesn’t cover any modern-ish medical devices, lack of vacation time to actually tour this land, missing family and friends, and absurd moorage rates and I just wanted to shake them and scream:

The worst thing about cruising is not cruising!

The worst thing about cruising is when it’s over and you look back through all the photos and videos and wonder how it went by so fast. The worst thing is when you are so ready to head back up to the islands but you are so broke and the longer you live in a first-world society the more money gets sucked from you and the broker you get. The worst thing is when you can’t shake the feeling that all this city stuff is just fabricated bullshit with all these abstract rules and costs and regulations and the only thing that seems real anymore is what actually is: the sand between your toes, the sun on your body, the feeling of diving in to saltwater so warm it’s like returning to the womb. You can close your eyes and feel the movement of your boat, her gentle rocking as the ocean breathes underneath her and the wind pulls her across the planet and you want to feel that feeling again so bad right now that it’s almost painful.

Sandy joy!But you can’t. We’re now 11 months in of living a “regular life” and years away from having any sort of cruising kitty and I’m marking things on Wondertime’s to-do list “not done” that were marked “done” several years ago. True, we are in New Zealand but we’re definitely not on holiday here. It feels like we’re right back to where we left from, some days: Michael’s back in the 9-5 IT world, I’m ferrying the girls back and forth to school. It’s what we know, I guess.

A little over a month ago, we moved into a lovely flat here in Auckland, just to have a break from the boat. Maybe haul her out and get some painting done we’ve been putting off (note to self: get painting quotes before signing an apartment lease). To see what a land life might be like. Unstuff ourselves from 38 crowded feet for a while. Cruising again seems so far and away — plus we really do like living in New Zealand, most of the time. Maybe we should just join the rest of the normal people and see what it’s like.

Well, five weeks have passed and it’s clearly not for us. This flat has an amazing view of the city but I think cruising ruined that too: if our view doesn’t change it gets kind of boring after a while. Half of Michael’s earnings go towards the rent, electricity, hot water, internet bills, plus Wondertime’s moorage. We saved $500 last month. I guess that’s something. But now, the city seems more absurdly routined than ever.

This may be an expensive lesson in the end but for the first time in months the future looks clearer than it has in some time. I don’t know how, or when but we will get back out there. Thankfully the worst thing about cruising is that more cruising solves that problem.

The clues are all around us.

The clues are all around us.

June – November 2012 Cruising Expenses

You will run out of arm strength long before you run out of money at the Tongan produce markets - this is about $20 worth.

You will run out of arm strength long before you run out of money at the Tongan produce markets – this is about $20US worth.

I promised you that we’d keep track of what we were spending during our cruise to the South Pacific and share the totals, good and bad. While I got a little behind on actually blogging the numbers, we did keep track all the way across and here are the final budget tallies.

Hopefully this will help future cruisers in planning their Mexico/South Pacific cruise budgets. I’m sure you can see areas where we could have saved a LOT of money (less beer and trips to Neiafu’s Aquarium Cafe perhaps?). But compared to what we’re spending now with a car to maintain, cell phones, marina moorage, etc. anchoring for free in front of a deserted South Pacific island munching on fresh papayas and mangoes just can’t be beat. Even if beer is $4/bottle.


S/V Wondertime’s June – November 2012 Cruising Expenses

June 2012 (French Polynesia)

alcohol – $305
books – $78
bus fare – $36
clothing – $91
dental care – $162
diesel – $262
eating out – $378
groceries – $1,044
internet – $131
laundry – $8
medical care -$27*
mooring -$144
museum -$12
petrol (dinghy outboard) – $39
pharmacy -$22
phone cards -$30
postage -$10
souvenirs -$493
stereo speaker replacements – $202
storage unit (annual) – $374
supplies – $122
toys – $24
web hosting (annual) – $122

total: $4,116

*This was my total bill for having an infected stye on my eyelid lanced by a French surgeon in Nuku Hiva on a Saturday night. I might be a fan of socialized healthcare….


July 2012 (French Polynesia)

alcohol – $176
butane/propane – $10
clothing – $25
diesel – $55
eating out – $183
galley – $18
groceries – $542
heiva tickets – $13
horse riding – $150
internet – $40
laundry – $45
mooring – $20
souvenirs – $30
supplies – $46
water – $10

total: $1,363


August 2012 (Niue & Tonga)

alcohol – $144
bank fees – $67
car rental – $45
eating out – $434
garbage disposal – $12
groceries – $329
laundry – $47
mooring – $142
Niue driver license – $19
Niue flag – $33
petrol (dinghy outboard) – $64
petrol (rental car) – $25
showers – $4
souvenirs – $90
theatre – $30
Tonga check-in fees – $129

total: $1,614


September 2012 (Tonga)

alcohol – $201
bank fees – $24
books – $49
cell phone – $30
eating out – $356
galley – $30
groceries – $456
internet – $4
ipod replacement – $230
laundry – $82
petrol (dinghy outboard) – $80
souvenirs – $23
Tonga tourist visa extensions – $120

total: $1,685


October 2012 (Tonga)

alcohol – $278
cell phone – $18
check-out port fee – $17
diesel – $300
dive tank fill – $12
eating out – $242
gifts – $22
groceries – $630
internet – $8
laundry – $90
mooring – $70
pharmacy – $52
propane/butane – $37
taxi – $18
water – $9

total: $1,803


November 2012 (Tonga only)

alcohol – $48
diesel – $270
eating out – $106
groceries – $228
laundry – $29

total: $681


Exploring Auckland’s One Tree Hill…free!

April – May 2012 Cruising Expenses

The best parts of cruising are free

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go.

 –Sterling Hayden

They say that cruising to the South Pacific is expensive. But somehow — after blowing our budget month after month in Mexico — we managed to spend less in each of our first two months here than in any month on our cruise so far. I think there are a few reasons for this: since we bought 3+ months worth of food in Mexico we haven’t needed to buy many provisions other than fresh items like produce, meat and eggs (and ice-cream of course). Second, many things are so expensive that we don’t even bother to buy them. For example: eating out with drinks for our family of four can easily cost over $100, internet is $5/hour so we aren’t checking Facebook much other than a quick peek now and then to see if anyone has been born. Laundry is $10-15 per load so nearly all of ours has been done in buckets in the cockpit and dried on the lifelines. Finally, there just isn’t a whole lot to buy in the middle of nowhere, like most of the Tuamotus and many Marquesan anchorages.

Some things were rumored to be very expensive and it turned out to be just not true. We paid less per gallon for duty-free diesel in Nuku Hiva than we did in California. A returnable 17 oz. bottle of Hinano beer is $3 in the Marquesas ($2 here in Tahiti). Many grocery items are very reasonable and on par with US prices such as pasta, rice and French cheeses (and of course baguettes!). Overall, we’d say that prices down here (at the current exchange rates) seem to be about 10% over what we were paying in Canada – south seas paradise cruising is a very good deal so far for us.

S/V Wondertime’s April & May 2012 Cruising Expenses

beer – $119
diesel – $100
dinghy gas – $36
dive tank fill – $10
eating out – $390
groceries – $482
internet – $97
laundry – $88
music CD – $26
personal care – $5
pharmacy – $31
phone card – $21
postage – $3
propane – $44
souvenirs (incl. tattoo) – $757
taxi – $6

total – $2,215

January 2012 Cruising Expenses

It’s a good thing we spent over two weeks away from any towns or cities in the month of January because we sure make up for it when we get into town! It’s hard to resist $2 ice-cream cones heaping with handmade ice-cream, $1 tacos, towering $6 burgers with fries. We were even delighted to pay $1 each for long, hot showers in La Paz. We are taking a trip later in February up to San Diego to gather supplies for our Puddle Jump and have been giving our Visa a workout in the process. I’ll have the whole nitty gritty of what it has cost us to prepare for a major ocean crossing in next month’s expense report (which includes the repair of our nearly-new ICOM IC-7000 HAM radio that blew out in Agua Verde and the cost of a spare radio as we realized again just how important this piece of communication equipment is when there is nobody else in VHF range…). But thankfully for January, it was just regular-old-living-the-easy-life-in-Mexico expenses.

S/V Wondertime’s January 2012 Cruising Expenses

activities – $20
books – $13
bus/taxi – $26
DAN membership – $55
diesel – $315
dinghy dock – $3
dinghy gas – $8
eating out – $196
fishing gear – $11
gifts – $150
groceries – $387
banda ancha internet – $36
laundry – $22
showers – $2
supplies – $40
toys – $16

total: $1,300 USD

December 2011 Cruising Expenses

To be honest, we were a little nervous adding up this past month’s expenses. What with Christmas presents, eating out nearly everyday at the many amazing restaurants and taco stands around Banderas Bay, recertifying and refilling dive tanks given to us by friends in San Francisco along with hookah gear, a trip to Costco, and filling the diesel tank again we thought that our budget would be a disaster. While it’s still a boat buck above our target, considering all the fun we had — and a few projects checked off — in Banderas Bay in December we still consider living down here a serious bargain.

S/V Wondertime’s December 2011 Cruising Expenses

boat bits – $135
books/magazines – $16
bus/taxi – $49
cat care – $76
cell phone – $29
clothing – $135
diesel – $222
dinghy gas – $34
dive/snorkle gear – $329
eating out – $387
galley – $9
gifts – $239
groceries – $605
internet – $36
carousel ride – $2
laundry – $35
moorage – $146
movie tickets – $21
mp3 album – $9
personal care – $36
supplies – $85
toys – $4

total: $2,639

November 2011 Cruising Expenses

After a mere month in Mexico, we have already reached cruising budget nirvana! We were delighted to find in November that cruising Mexico really is still cheap. Here’s what we got for just a touch over $1500 USD for the month of November: time at the dock in both Ensenada and at the luxurious new Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz, full diesel tanks, four 6-month Mexico tourist visas and one Temporary Import Permit for the boat, a three-year birthday party, a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at the gourmet marina restaurant I didn’t need to lift a finger for, countless taco cart visits, trips to the ice-cream freezer, and ice-cold Pacificos consumed at various palapa bars, taxi ride home with a huge load of groceries, a used Seatiger 555 windlass (story coming soon…), laundry dropped off and picked up washed, dried and folded, two haircuts, and high-speed cell internet service right on our boat. Living in the lap of luxury at thrift store prices — thanks in large part to our excellent exchange rate (nearly 14 pesos per $1USD).

S/V Wondertime’s November 2011 Cruising Expenses

bus/taxi – $12
cat supplies – $5
cell phone – $32
clothing – $30
diesel – $263
eating out – $264
gifts – $20
groceries – $260
haircuts – $13
tourist visas – $78
internet (banda ancha cell card) – $50
laundry – $34
marina water/electricity – $11
moorage – $242
mp3 download – $7
skype – $10
souvenirs – $44
temporary import permit for boat – $50
used windlass – $150

total: $1,575

October 2011 Cruising Expenses

Perhaps I should label this month “Cruising in California Expenses” as well as September. The money continued to bleed out like crazy and we hope crossing the border will finally put a tourniquet on our budget once and for all. We knew our anchoring choices were limited in Southern Cali and we’d have to pay to moor the boat at times but ouch. (Why we didn’t join a yacht/cruising club to get free/reduced moorage I have no idea. Sigh.) We also bought lots of new bits for Wondertime (some new halyards, a whisker pole, engine oil, spares, fans, guidebooks and all sort of other junk to stuff in our lockers “just in case”). We stocked up on our favorite foods at Costco and Trader Joes as well as tubes and tubes of Toms of Maine toothpaste. There was also a trip to Disneyland which was worth every penny.

S/V Wondertime’s October 2011 Cruising Expenses

allowance (Leah) – $8
activities – $317
boat bits – $2,269
boat insurance – $54
books – $59
camera – $38
car rental – $227
cat supplies – $63
cell phones – $23
clothing – $50
computer – $211
diesel – $211
DVDs – $20
eating out – $359
faxes & copies – $15
galley – $78
groceries – $964
hotel – $104
laundry – $27
mexican fishing licenses – $180
guidebooks – $141
moorage – $629
parking – $15
personal care – $186
propane – $14
rental car gas – $37
supplies – $268
toys – $18
wifi – $10

total: $6,595

September 2011 Cruising Expenses

September was definitely not a typical month budget-wise but it still hurts more than a little to look at the numbers. We’d been putting off several major items for our arrival in the Bay area, namely purchasing a new dinghy and adding two additional solar panels. But even not including those two items we’re still well above $2k. I guess we may have had a little too much fun in San Francisco! We did have access to a car for a day so we did major stock-up trips to Costco and Trader Joes; I’m sure a lot of what we purchased will be consumed months from now. Or maybe not…we are amazed at how much two little girls eat!

S/V Wondertime’s September 2011 Cruising Expenses

allowance (Leah) – $10
boat insurance – $54
boat stuff – $3,866
books – $15
car rental – $55
cat supplies – $44
cell phone – $23
computer – $76
diesel – $477
eating out – $337
fishing gear – $7
gas for dinghy – $41
groceries – $1,344
kindle – $150
laundry – $34
moorage – $122
postage – $14
propane – $20
souvenirs – $134
supplies – $55
toys – $26
transportation – $29
welding – $75

total: $7,008

August 2011 Cruising Expenses

Yet another benefit of exploring the Canadian wilderness was that we were away from town much of the time in August and were able to make our monthly cruising budget goal of $1200. The cell phone bill was actually from July but we paid it in August so it’s in there. Of course, we’ll be spending the next month and a half in California so our budget is going to be blown away (but we’re trying hard to keep it reeled in). Thankfully most of November will be spent off Baja so we should be able to balance it out a bit which is what this is all about.

S/V Wondertime’s August 2011 Cruising Expenses

activities – $20
allowance (Leah) – $8
beer – $87
boat bits – $41
boat insurance – $50
books – $10
cell phone – $55
clothing – $18
diesel – $103
eating out – $119
fishing gear – $65
fishing licenses – $14
groceries – $440
laundry – $44
moorage – $94
personal care – $2
postage – $3
propane – $18
showers – $12
souvenirs – $6
supplies – $12

total: $1,221

July 2011 Cruising Expenses

As promised, we are sharing our cruising expenses for all the world to see. The totals were both not so shocking and a little shocking at the same time. (Check out that eating out category! Must work on that one immediately.) We spent a great deal more than we normally expect to on boat bits this month as we were still working on the boat a good portion of this past month (the new mast tangs alone were $930CAD). Thankfully we won’t be anywhere near a West Marine for another six weeks. We also purchased the Canadian charts and the Dreamspeaker guidebook for the west coast of Vancouver Island which we should have purchased used before we left. Sadly, the numbers are a little lower than reality as we have been in Canada since July 11th and our dollar has been worth only $0.95 of Canadian dollars and I’ve not made the conversion in my notes. We also are currently paying 1% International Service Fees when using our credit union ATM/debit/Visa cards which also is not in the totals. Here you go:

S/V Wondertime’s July 2011 Cruising Expenses

activities – $41
allowance (leah) – $8
boat bits – $1,236
books & charts – $326
cat supplies – $10
clothing – $20
computer – $11
diesel – $364
eating out – $376
garbage – $2
dinghy gas – $51
groceries – $354
laundry – $11
moorage – $127
personal care – $36
shower – $1
supplies – $39
toys – $46
transportation – $13
wine/beer – $77

total: $3,149